Friends and Fans — I have retired from my work as a public intellectual, so Philosophy in Action is on indefinite hiatus. Please check out the voluminous archive of free podcasts, as well as the premium audio content still available for sale. My two books — Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame and Explore Atlas Shrugged — are available for purchase too. Best wishes! — Diana Brickell (Hsieh)

Parents, Self-Defense, Evil, Blood Donation, and More

Webcast Q&A: 3 July 2011

I answered questions on moral obligations of children to parents, the boundaries of proper self-defense, real life evil, reasons to donate blood, and more on 3 July 2011. Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers was my co-host. Listen to or download this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio below.

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life... far and wide. That's why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

My News of the Week: I've been working on programming for this webcast, as well as my updates to Explore Atlas Shrugged.


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Segments: 3 July 2011


Question 1: Moral Obligations of Children to Parents

Question: Do kids have moral obligations to their parents? If so, what obligations and why?

Answer, In Brief: Morality is self-motivating: a person should act virtuously in order to live and be happy. Hence, there are no unchosen, unconditional moral obligations (i.e. duties) to other people. Instead, moral obligations to others arise from our own choices, particularly from promises and agreements that we make with others – and that applies to children as well as adults.

Tags: Adult Children, Children, Ethics, Family, Obligation, Parenting, Responsibility

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Question 2: The Boundaries of Proper Self-Defense

Question: Is it moral to not defend yourself if you will get into legal trouble for doing so? As I understand laws on self-defense, you must be "in immediate danger of death or grievously bodily harm" in order to use lethal force. How is this reconciled with the morality of "shooting before he shoots you" or "hitting before you get hit"? In other words, preemptive attack may be seen as assault, but there might also be a threat of force. Is it moral to not defend yourself to avoid assault charges? In the case of using a gun to defend yourself, this could mean the difference between you dying at the hands of your attacker or living, but going to jail for murder. What should you do?

Answer, In Brief: It is morally and legally proper to defend yourself, under certain conditions. As Boston T. Party explains, "Lethal force is valid only against a reasonably perceived immanent and grievous threat. The jury must agree that your assailant had the capability, opportunity, and obvious intent to immanently cause you at least grievous bodily harm.”

Tags: Ethics, Firearms, Law, Self-Defense

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Question 3: Real Life Evil

Question: Are people in real life as evil as in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged? In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand presents almost every bad person as very evil. I understand the purpose of that in the novel, but are their equivalents in real life (meaning the legislators passing similar laws nowadays) as evil as that – or are some of them just misguided or even stupid? In other words, do real-life people act on the death premise and hate the good for being the good? I just can't imagine that. Am I being too optimistic?

Answer, In Brief: Evil is real — and not on sidelines today. But you can fight it and protect yourself from it.

Tags: Activism, Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Ethics, Evil, Judgment, Justice, Objectivism, Sanction

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Question 4: Reasons to Donate Blood

Question: What are the personal benefits of being a blood donor (or organ donor)? Is it worth doing under today's laws, where donors cannot get paid? Should people be able to trade blood and organs in a free market?

Answer, In Brief: The primary reason to donate blood and organs is the value of other people to you and a desire for a well-stocked supply in case you or your loved ones are ever in need.

Tags: Benevolence, Ethics, Medicine, Politics

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Rapid Fire Questions (52:46)

In this segment, I answered questions chosen at random by Greg Perkins impromptu. The questions were:
  • If there was free trade in organs, do you think medical science have even more of an incentive to be creating artificial organs?
  • What if your blood donation goes to support the life of an evil dictator?
  • Should a person be more cautious about organ donation given the increasing government controls in medicine?
  • Should gays be forbidden from donating blood?
  • Why do you think that tattoos should be easily concealed?
  • In the wake of the financial crisis, is more financial reform required?
  • Why should women exit elevators before men?
  • Should we be able to ask the "unaskable" questions on job interviews (such as on religion)?

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Conclusion (1:08:13)

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Philosophy in Action Radio! If you enjoyed this episode, please contribute to contribute to our tip jar.


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The vast majority of Philosophy in Action Radio – the live show and the podcast – is available to anyone, free of charge. That's because my mission is to spread rational principles for real life far and wide, as I do every week to thousands of listeners. I love producing the show, but each episode requires requires the investment of time, effort, and money. So if you enjoy and value my work, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, regular contributors enjoy free access to my premium content.

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About Philosophy in Action

I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.

From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.

You can listen to these 362 podcasts by subscribing to the Podcast RSS Feed. You can also peruse the podcast archive, where episodes and questions are sorted by date and by topic.

My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.

You can also read my blog NoodleFood and subscribe to its Blog RSS Feed.

I can be reached via e-mail to diana@philosophyinaction.com.

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